Read on know all about the famous annual Indira Gandhi Boat Race held at Cochin (Kochi) city of Kerala, India.
Indira Gandhi Boat Race
Center of Activity: Cochin Backwaters
Time of Celebration: Last week of December
Main Attraction: Boat race
Indira Gandhi Boat Race happens to be very colorful water sport-cum-festival held every year. It is organized during the last week of December in the backwaters of the Cochin city of Kerala. Infact, the tradition of holding boat races is not just confined to Kochi. It is popular throughout Kerala and different boat race competitions like the Nehru Trophy Boat Race, Champakulam Moolam Boat Race, Aranmula Uthrattadi Vallamkali, Payippad Jalotsavam and Kumarakom Boat Race are held here.
These boat races are packed with so much energy that tourists and media crew from all over the country come to view them. The boats used in the competition are stream lined in shape to make them run faster. However, the ones used in the Indira Gandhi Boat Race are called the Vallam Kali. The term Vallam Kali or Vallamkali literally means 'Boat Game' in Malayalam. Apart from being a tradition, the Indira Gandhi Boat Race festival is also conducted to boost tourism in the state of Kerala.
The trophy of this race was instituted in memory of Indira Gandhi, the late Prime Minister of India. What makes the race so unique is the sportive spirit of the participants. Around 150 oarsmen, each of them representing a different village, vow to observe strict rules during the game. Feeding them during practice sessions and on the festival day is the responsibility of the villagers or well-to-do people who, often, vouch to bear the entire expenses. The preparations for the Indira Gandhi Boat Race begin several weeks in advance.
The snake boats are smeared with sardine oil for a smooth passage through the water. Usually, a snake boat is manned by four helmsmen, 25 singers and 100 to 125 oarsmen, who row in unison to the fast rhythm of the Vanchipattu or the song of the boatman. Thousands of people crowd along the waters to cheer the participants of the boat race. Most of the races organized in Kerala have interesting legends behind how they originated.